Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mobile Phones for Health Surveillance

An article in the Yale Journal of Public Health recently reported on the use of mobile technology to improve public health surveillance activities. Advances in technology are not always quick to be adopted in public health, though the computer and Internet have exponentially increased the efficiency and productivity of information management and risk communication. How else could one so quickly be informed about a SARS outbreak or the current state of Avian flu?

My husband, after returning from a 2-week trip to Kenya, told me stories about the widespread use of mobile phones, even in the most rural and poor regions of the country. He noted that he never saw them actually talking on the phone, it was a device used for text messaging. "Minutes" are just too expensive.

Given the penetration of mobile technology - how might cell phones be used solve pressing public health issues? This article describes two CDC activities; one aimed at using PDAs to collect surveillance information for its "Household Morbidity Surveillance Survey" in Kibera, the other is to use text messaging to improve inter-governmental communication about disease outbreaks. 

There is certainly an irony on the use of PDAs to collect information from some of the poorest people in the world. However, if it is able to collect better data, more quickly, and to improve the delivery of health services and prevention information I am in full support! 

How else might mobile phones be used to collect or communicate health information?

If interested, check out the following websites
  • Texting4Health - A conference held at Stanford University, February 2008
  • - Blogs, information, and a directory for activists using mobile technology worldwide

No comments: